The State, Mental Health, and Jared Lee Loughner

Following a psychiatrist’s newspaper diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia soon after the Tucson shooting, I guess Jared Lee Loughner has his defense.

Insanity is the only supposed “sickness” I know of that has been legislated. While the line between church and state was clearly demarcated by our forebears, the line between medicine and law has been crossed time and again in that branch of law known as Mental Health Law.

The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and The Law have become involved in the Tuscon shooting case. The story, as printed in The Sacramento Bee, bears the headline, Groups ask to voice views on meds in Loughner case.

A decision was made in the Missouri prison facility where he is held to forcibly drug Jared Lee Loughner. An appeals court temporarily halted this forced drugging, but prison officials decided his condition had deteriorated, and the drugging resumed. The court in turn lifted its ban on his forced drugging.

The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and The Law made a request to become a party in the case as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether the decision to forcibly medicate Jared Lee Loughner with psychotropic drugs can be made by prison officials or a judge.

Don’t be fooled, this move is about defending the power and status of psychiatry, and it is not about seeing that justice is served, or that mental health is attained. As the article explains, psychiatry associations have done the same sort of thing in other cases.

The psychiatric groups say in their friend-of-the-court brief that the decision to treat dangerous patients should be made by those who have custody of them, not by a judge who lacks the background to make appropriate treatment decisions.

I would imagine that they would say the same thing about a jury were a jury to sit in judgment over his “mental health”. Unless, of course, it was a jury of psychiatrists. Let’s see…”appropriate treatment decisions”, in shrink-speak that usually means forced drugging, doesn’t it?

They also say requiring a prison to seek court approval for such medications is likely to delay treatment and prolong patients’ risks to themselves or others.

Right, as if it didn’t have anything to do with restoring the patient/suspect’s competency to stand trial. We know what psychiatrists say, the psychiatric way is the only and the best way. They’re very invested in it, to say the least.

My view is that nobody should ever be forcibly drugged against his or her will and wishes even in the federal penitentiary system. Drug treatment has been proven effective, if that, only in the short run. In the long run you have really bad outcomes, and it is likely to do more harm than good. The range of the damage caused by this legislated “treatment” extends well beyond the case of Jared Lee Loughner himself. There are many, many other people who are apt to be damaged as long as this type of treatment is standard.

I suppose the question that remains is which course of action will get him to trial sooner, psychotropic drugs or no psychotropic drugs, and does it really matter, so long as he is in treatment/custody. So long as he is kept off the street and away from firearms, there is no need to dose him up, too, is there? If he dies before he gets to trial, so be it.

Another thing, I’m not in favor of the use of the “mental illness” excuse for escaping justice in serious violent crimes, especially murder, and most especially multiple murder. “Mental illness” is not a reason. Insanity should not be allowed to serve as a defense in trials involving such crimes. Regardless of a person’s mental state at the time of the crime, ultimately he or she needs to, just like the rest of us, account for his or her actions.

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